The Crossing Place of Road and River, also known as A Walk of the Same Length as the River Avon (Fuchs, p.106), comprises two parts of the same size. One is a black and white photograph of a rough track approaching and crossing over a narrow river, above the handwritten words ‘the crossing place of road and river’. The second is a drawing consisting of two lines, one blue, one black, above the words ‘a walk of the same length as the River Avon/ An 84 mile northward walk along the Foss Way Roman Road’ inscribed in red ink. ‘England 1977’ is written below in black. All the text is in capitals. The blue line, with its forked end, describes the contours of the River Avon, from mouth to source. The black line is of equal length, although it does not appear so. It marks the trajectory of the Foss Way, an ancient road built by the Romans along which Long walked over a period of several days. The point where the two lines cross, represented graphically on the drawing, is described in an alternative manner, seen through the camera’s eye, in the photograph.
Long was born, raised and still lives in countryside near the city of Bristol, situated at the mouth of the River Avon in the south west of England. He has used the River Avon as a starting point for many works. His art is based on the activity of walking in the natural landscape. Every walk results in a form of documentation which maps the terrain he has covered in a variety of ways, through text, photographs, cartography, or the collection of natural elements and their arrangement in geometric configurations in a gallery or museum space. On other occasions he intervenes directly upon the landscape. Circle in Africa 1978 (Tate T06890) is a photograph of a circle of burnt cactus created during a walk on an African mountain. Long first used the walk as a means of making a mark in A Line Made by Walking, England 1967 (Tate P07149), a photograph documenting a line worn in meadow grass by the actions of his feet as he walked back and forth. In this work, as in The Crossing Place of Road and River, Long’s action and his representation of it emphasise the opposing (but not contradictory) forces of man and nature. In The Crossing Place... the formal difference between the two lines indicates this most clearly. The river’s route, directed by the land’s contours and the earth’s gravitational pull over a millenial time-scale, is highly convoluted and indirect. The Foss Way, by contrast, delineates a roughly straight line between two points, the result of the human desire to get from a to b with maximum efficiency, overcoming such time-consuming obstacles as the unevenness of the landscape.
Long has counterbalanced this relationship in the photograph. Here the river makes a straight line horizontally across the image, while the tracks of the Foss Way sinuously curve round from the left hand side of the image, over the old stone bridge and off across a field, finally disappearing into a bushy gulley. The balancing of elements complements Long’s use of photograph, drawing and text – all with equal weight – to evoke his concept. He has commented: ‘I like to use the symmetry of patterns between time, places and time, between distance and time, between stones and distance, between time and stones.’ (Quoted in Friis-Hansen, p.29.) The two panels of The Crossing Place... symmetrically freeze Long’s walk in time through two different viewpoints: the overview provided by the drawing and the literal view provided by the camera.
R.H. Fuchs, Richard Long, exhibition catalogue, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1986, p.230, reproduced p.106
Richard R. Brettell, Dana Friis-Hansen, Richard Long: Circles Cycles Mud Stones, exhibition catalogue, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston 1996
Richard Long: Walking in Circles, exhibition catalogue, South Bank Centre, London 1991
November 2000/October 2001